Floating markets in Mekong Delta – a life-changing experience

There have been few experiences in my life that really changed the way I see the world and the trip to the Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho, Mekong Delta is one of them. When you visit Cai Rang, you are not just exploring a floating market in Vietnam, you have the chance to take a closer look at how people live in this area and it’s an incredible and eye opening experience.

Cai Rang floating market Mekong Delta Vietnam
Woman selling fruits at Cai Rang floating market Mekong Delta

What is a floating market

A floating market is a place (usually on a river or a lake) where local people sell goods from their boats. Due to the high temperatures during the day, these floating markets usually take place early in the morning. For example, the Cai Rang floating market starts at about 4 AM.

Why you should visit a Mekong River floating market

Boat selling fruits at Mekong Delta Cai Rang floating market

There are many Mekong Delta floating markets to choose from but the biggest one and the most impressive is Cai Rang. The abundance of fruits and vegetables is incredible. There are big boats full of pineapples or watermelons while the smaller boats usually sell food and coffee for the hungry tourists.

Of course, seeing a floating market for the first time is incredible but this is just the tip of the iceberg. For the full experience, make sure to tell your guide to take you to the narrow canals where people actually live.

Just a few meters away from the crowded, full of tourists Mekong river floating markets there are people who live in small houses built from wood and scrap metal. These houses are built right above the river or on the edge of it.

House at Mekong River Cai Rang floating market
House near Cai Rang floating market

The people living here do not have access to clean water so don’t be surprised when you’ll see them throwing buckets in the river in order to collect water. Needless to say, the water in the river is very dirty and has been probably reused many times.

Seeing people living in such poor conditions made me realize how lucky I am to have access to all the basic necessities such as electricity, clean water and sewage system. Being born in the right place is a real privilege.

Those people in Mekong Delta use the river as their garbage dump and source of water at the same time. They clean, wash clothes and bathe with that water; the same water where they throw away their garbage and the toiled residues.

As you’ll pass by the houses in the morning, you’ll see the place come to life. People start waking up, children wash themselves and parents start preparing food. It all happens like in any other normal household. They seem to be used to living like this. For people living near the floating markets in Mekong Delta, poverty is a part of their daily life but for them this is not something that prevents them from being happy.

Children at Cai Rang floating market Mekong Delta Vietnam

I’ve seen many smiles along the way and children playing and having fun. People here are thrilled to see tourists and they make sure to say hi and welcome everyone. This happens because tourism is a big part of the local economy.

Tourists flocking to Mekong River floating markets represent a source of income for locals. Many Vietnamese people now rent their boats and guide tourists through the floating markets.

Our guide was the most genuine, kind person. Even though he didn’t speak English very well, he always smiled and was happy to take us through the Cai Rang floating market twice. These people are hardworking so don’t hesitate to leave a tip.

Which floating market in Mekong Delta should you visit?

Cai Rang floating market Mekong Delta Vietnam
Man in his boat at Cai Rang floating market

Nowadays, Vietnam floating markets are no longer what they used to be. People are moving to bigger cities in search for better jobs. Therefore, the number of boats at the Vietnam floating markets is constantly decreasing.

The biggest Mekong Delta floating market in Vietnam is Cai Rang. Although not as big as it used to be, I recommend visiting it. Just a short boat ride away from Can Tho, Cai Rang floating market is a must visit.

What you need to know about Cai Rang floating market

Cai Rang floating market at Mekong Delta Vietnam

There are two options of getting to the Cai Rang floating market: either by booking a tour or by yourself. As always, booking a tour from your hotel or on the internet is more expensive. This is why I recommend going to the Ferry Terminal early in the morning. There you will find many guides eager to take you to the floating market.

Read below my tips and tricks for an amazing Cai Rang floating market tour:

  1. Be at the Ferry Terminal early

    The Cai Rang floating market boat tours start at the Ferry Terminal in Can Tho. Giving the fact that the market starts at about 4 AM, I recommend being there at 4-4.30 AM. If it’s too dark outside you won’t be able to see much and taking photos would be almost impossible.

  2. Negotiate the price

    At the Ferry Terminal you will find many guides and boats waiting for tourists. Most of the times, the boat guides do not speak English but there will be a second person who will be the middleman between you and your guide (I am sure he gets a commission out of this deal).

    If you want to rent a boat just for yourself, the price should be around 500,000 VND.

  3. Bring warm clothes with you

    The temperatures early in the morning are pretty low so don’t forget to take a hoodie with you.

A trip to a Mekong River floating market is a must if you are in the South of Vietnam. It will definitely be a cultural shock if you haven’t been to any other floating markets before and an eye-opening experience. Make sure to bring your camera with you and capture some amazing shots!

May the travel bug bite you!

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Aurelia Teslaru

Aurelia Teslaru is a professional travel blogger and the writer behind Daily Travel Pill. With a 4-year experience as a travel writer and photographer, Aurelia only shares travel guides about destinations that she visited.

She has been to more than 40 countries during the past 10 years and aims to explore 50 countries before turning 30 years old. Aurelia is a digital nomad who transformed her passion for travel into a lifestyle. Read more about her here.

To follow her adventures, check out her Instagram and Facebook pages!

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